Tuesday, June 2, 2015

You can't fight climate change without massive foreign aid

Carbon emissions from the United States and other industrialized countries have driven climate change in the past, but that's about to change. In the future, emerging economies will account for about 90% of the growth in anthropogenic carbon dioxide as they build their own roads, coal-fired power plants, and so on.

To mitigate this and keep warming below the standard two degree tipping point, the US is going to have to make enormous investments in international aid. To honor international commitments we've already made, we should be giving about $30 billion a year by 2020*. Developing nations have called for about four times that number, and their request is probably much more realistic.

In other words, in 5 years, the US should be giving away more money to fight climate change than we budget for agriculture and transportation combined - about $120 billion annually*. These are conservative estimates. To put them in perspective, here's how Senate Republicans responded when President Obama made a one-time pledge of just $3 billion:
"If they think they're going to get all that money for the fund, they're mistaken," a senior aid to Senator Inhofe said. "You're going to see us being more aggressive about not sending more money to the U.N. and elsewhere for climate change."
If you take climate change seriously you should be mobilizing for a political war. And you should challenge as inadequate any climate change agenda that isn't calling for massive, historically unprecedented foreign aid. And you do not have a hell of a lot of time to get this done. This is not the sort of political long-war that progressives are used to fighting; generously, we have a decade or so to get this rolling.

* Right now the US is capping its contributions to the Green Climate Fund at 30% of international totals. At that level, we would have to contribute $30 billion annually to honor the 2010 Cancun Climate Change Agreement, which calls for $100 billion annually from industrialized nations. Developing nations at the Copenhagen climate summit, meanwhile held out for $400 billion annually.